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Fridays with Fuhrmann: Removing the barriers for women in electrical and computer engineering

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This week we learned that Michigan Tech, along with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, has been selected for a grant from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Pacesetters program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Google and Qualcomm. The aim is to develop aggressive goals and plans to increase the participation of women in computing and information technology. Michigan Tech is pleased to be recognized for its efforts to bring more women into the field. I congratulate Linda Ott from the Department of Computer Science on her leadership in bringing the grant proposal process to a successful conclusion.

This is a good opportunity for me to offer a few informal thoughts about the issue of women in electrical and computer engineering and what we can do, and need to be doing better, to bring more women into the field. This has been a conundrum for the ECE Department for a long time. We are not alone in that struggle; it is a nationwide issue. The female undergraduate enrollment in the ECE Department has hovered below 10% for many years, although there has been a very slow rise and this past fall we were at 10.8%, a minor victory of sorts I suppose. Many of us in electrical engineering are left wondering why this has to be the case. We can jump up and down and stand on our heads and say what a great field this is, and talk about all the career opportunities in EE (and I believe that with all my heart) but still that message doesn’t seem to be getting across, or at least isn’t making an impact. I will be the first to admit that I say all those things as a 58-year-old male who has had a reasonably successful and rewarding career, and that it is hard for me to see things from the perspective of a young woman about to graduate from high school.

You hear a lot of things about where the disconnect might be. It could be our culture, especially our youth culture, in which girls form opinions about themselves in middle school and high school about ability in math and science, which have little basis in truth but which they carry for the rest of their lives. It could be the professional environmental in high-tech areas like Silicon Valley, notorious for its “brogramming” culture in certain parts of the start-up world. It could be the lack of role models, in colleges and universities where electrical engineering and computer science is taught, and in industrial settings that come after. It could be that women look into the working world and just don’t see a path forward in an environment that is so dominated by men. All of these arguments have merit, and we need to be vigilant and aggressive in removing the barriers that are implied in each of them.

One often hears the argument that women are not attracted to electrical engineering because it is not a field that is “helping” or “nurturing”. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this is complete hogwash and I reject it completely. First of all, saying that all women want to be caregivers is just buying into the stereotypes that have kept them out of the field in the first place. Second, and more importantly, the idea that electrical engineering is not a “helping” field is flat-out ridiculous. I would argue that electrical engineers have done more to help humankind in the 20th century than any other professional group you can name. What is more “helping” than bringing electrical power to every home and office in the United States? What is more “helping” than creating a communication network that allows people to connect via voice, text, or video, halfway around the world, at the touch of a button? What is more “helping” than designing the technology and the systems that provide for our common defense, protecting the nation and keeping us all safe in our homes? What is more “helping” than creating the technology that brings us the aesthetic joy and pleasure of music, video, and cinema? If someone wants to make an argument in support of the medical profession, I suppose we could sit down and have a good debate, but the first thing I would point out, as I did in this column three weeks ago, is that EEs were major players in that arena too!

Now that I got that off my chest, I’ll conclude by mentioning some of the things we are doing in the ECE Department at Michigan Tech to attract more women into our ranks. The ECE Department participates in Michigan Tech’s ADVANCE initiative, an NSF-supported program designed to the hiring and retention of women faculty, thereby creating a professional environment that our students can view as a model for the industrial world. We have wonderful and creative outreach programs for middle and high school age girls, in our summer camps and during the academic year; this is led enthusiastically by our Associate Chair Glen Archer, with help from a great group of students in the Blue Marble Security Enterprise. Dr. Archer was also the ECE point of contact for the successful NCWIT proposal. We have created an ECE Women’s Center in the EERC, a space on the 7th floor where our female students can meet for academic and social interactions. We have instituted two new concentrations within the BSEE degree, in Biomedical Applications and in Environmental Applications, that have a secondary but explicit aim of attracting more women to the field. I can’t say that we have found the magic bullet yet that is going to boost our female enrollment to 20% or 30% or more, but we are giving it our best shot.

This is an issue for which there are probably as many opinions as people who think about it. On this, and any other issue for that matter, I am always open to hearing from others and having a discussion. If you have read this far and want to take it further, please feel free to get in touch.

– Dan

Dan Fuhrmann
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University

 

 

 


Zhaohui Wang Receives Outstanding Service Award

Zhaohui Wang resized
Zhaohui Wang, ECE Assistant Professor

Zhaohui Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech University, received the Outstanding Service Award for her work as Information Systems Chair in the 10th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems (WUWNet), held in Washington DC, October 22-24, 2015. The scope of the WUWNet conference covers a broad range of research directions relevant to underwater networks and network-related signal processing, communications, systems, and applications. The goal of WUWNet is to bring together researchers and practitioners in areas relevant to underwater networks, and serve as a forum for presenting state of the art research, exchanging ideas and experiences, and facilitating interaction and collaboration.

WUWNet’15 link: http://wuwnet.acm.org/2015/

Systems Control Announces Expansion

image16619-persFrom Tech Today by Systems Control

An Upper Peninsula company with ties to Michigan Tech has announced a major expansion. Systems Control has begun a 70,000 sqare foot addition that will bring the total footprint of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facility in Iron Mt. to more than 315,000 square feet. This expansion comes on the heels of a 127,000 square foot expansion that was completed in 2012.

Systems Control is owned by Michigan Tech alumnus Dave Brule, Sr., ’72, who also served for several years as a member of the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees, culminating in a term as chairman in 2004.

In announcing his most recent investment in the Upper Peninsula economy, Brule stated, “Given our markets, we could have expanded our manufacturing capabilities anywhere in the country. I prefer to leverage the strong work ethic and technical expertise of residents in the Upper Peninsula. Quality and innovation are hallmarks of our success. Engineers and workers in the U.P. embody these traits.”

The additional space will be devoted primarily to the manufacture of equipment enclosures used in the electrical transmission, energy storage and oil and gas distribution industries.

Accompanying the investment in plant and equipment, Systems Control has embarked on a substantial program to develop and grow the human resource side of the business. In order to achieve its strategic goals, the company plans to add 70 to 150 people per year for the foreseeable future, possibly doubling its workforce by 2020. Immediate needs include electrical engineers, manufacturing engineers, project managers, CAD designers and many tradesmen.

In May, Systems Control established an engineering office in Houghton located in Michigan Tech’s Lakeshore Center, home of the MTEC SmartZone, on the Houghton waterfront. To learn more, visit the Systems Control website.


Kit Cischke Selected for Dean’s Teaching Showcase

Kit Cischke, ECE Sr. Lecturer
Kit Cischke, ECE Sr. Lecturer

The Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominee for this week comes from the College of Engineering. Dean Wayne Pennington has chosen to recognize Kit Cischke, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and faculty advisor for the Wireless Communication Enterprise.

Associate Dean Leonard Bohmann indicates that the “students love Kit because he brings his practical experience into the class, showing the practical applications of the theory.” As evidence, Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering student honor society, selected Kit as their Professor of the Year in both 2013 and 2014. Bohmann continues: “Kit has the ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He works hard to get students to understand and have fun doing it.”

Kit indicates that he does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life. He also tries to “embrace technology”, using an iPad to deliver his lectures and an audio recorder so students can review them.

Kit has a long history of excellent teaching contributions at Michigan Tech. Brian Broeders, an alumnus who has been working as a product engineer for Plexus Engineering Solutions since 2009, praised Kit in a 2010 Linked In post for similar reasons. “He teaches class material in a clear and easy to understand format and his lab exercises help students make use of topics learned in class…I wish I had more instructors like him when I was in school.” Current students also praise his involvement as an organizational advisor and the fact that he really cares whether students are learning the material.

Cischke will be formally recognized with the 11 other Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominees at a luncheon near the end of spring term. Please join Dean Pennington and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in thanking Kit for his outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the College of Engineering.

Story as posted in Tech Today, March 25, 2015



Happy Holidays from ECE

christmas2014Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year from the faculty and staff of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

We will have limited office hours during the two-week holiday period. Please see below for a complete listing.

Monday, Dec. 22: Open 7:30am to 4:00pm

Tuesday, Dec. 23: Open 7:30am to 3:00pm

Wednesday, Dec. 24: Closed

Thursday, Dec. 25: Closed

Friday, Dec. 26: Closed

Monday, Dec. 29: Open 8:00am to 3:00pm

Tuesday, Dec. 30: Open 8:00am to 3:00pm

Wednesday, Dec. 31: Closed

Thursday, Jan. 1: Closed

Friday, Jan. 2: Open 8:00am to 3:00pm

Happy New Year!

 


Michael Briseno awarded Mi-Light Photonics Scholarship

Michael Briseno receives Mi-Light Scholarship award from ECE Chair Dan Fuhrmann
Dan Fuhrmann presents Mi-Light Scholarship Award to Michael Briseno

Michael Briseno, a senior double majoring in Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, was selected to receive a $1,250 Mi-Light Photonics Scholarship for academic year 2014-2015. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University was among four in-state academic institutions to receive a share of the $5,000 scholarship funding provided by Mi-Light, the Michigan photonics industry cluster. The scholarship was created to support and promote photonics-related business in Michigan.

This fall, applications were accepted from undergraduate students majoring in electrical engineering; currently or have previously completed course work in photonics ; minimum GPA of 3.0; and demonstrated intent of continuing within the field. In addition to Briseno’s desire to pursue a career in photonics/optics, he was selected for his academic accomplishments and service.

Briseno is a member of the International Society for Optics and Photonics and the Optical Society of America, serving as secretary of the SPIE/OSA student organization at Michigan Tech. As SPIE/OSA secretary, he participated in middle and high school outreach programs presenting photonics demos and talking with students. He notes that one of the most rewarding things of this experience was seeing the students’ eyes light up as they learned about photonics through visually exciting applications. This past summer Briseno was hired by PPG Industries as a color scientist intern working with the optical properties of automotive paints and refinish.

Briseno also serves as president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and is a member of Michigan Tech’s Memorial Union Board and Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

See ECE Photonics for more information regarding the ECE Department’s Photonics Concentration.

Mi-Light is a non-profit organization serving Michigan’s photonics industry by bringing together professionals from companies, academia and organizations to mutually support and promote photonics-related business. For more on Mi-Light visit: www.mi-light.org.

Funds for this initiative were provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a Michigan Strategic Fund program designed to accelerate the growth and diversification of Michigan’s economy. The MEDC, a public-private partnership between the state and local communities, provides administrative support for the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The MEDC markets Michigan and provides the tools and environment to drive job creation and investment. For more information on the 21st Century Jobs Fund initiative, visit www.MichiganAdvantage.org.For more on MEDC visit:  MichiganAdvantage.org.


ECE Announces 2014 Graduate Student Awards

Zagros Shahooei receives the 2014 Jonathan Bara Award for Outstanding GTA presented by ECE Chair Dan Fuhrmann
Zagros Shahooei receives the 2014 Jonathan Bara Award for Outstanding GTA presented by ECE Chair Dan Fuhrmann

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering announced its selection of the 2014 graduate student awards at the annual ECE Graduate Student and External Advisory Committee Banquet held on Thursday evening, October 2, in the Memorial Union Building Ballroom. Each year a nomination and selection process is conducted by the ECE faculty to identify an outstanding graduate teaching assistant (GTA) and graduate research assistant (GRA). This year’s award recipients are Zagros Shahooei, Jonathan Bara Outstanding GTA, and Xiaohui Wang, Matt Wolfe Outstanding GRA.

PhD student Zagros Shahooei was honored for his enthusiasm, and working relationship with the students as evident by his high teaching evaluations. In the Fall of 2013, he was recognized as one of the top GTAs campus-wide when the Graduate School awarded him with an Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. During this time he carried a heavy course load, completing 30 credits of coursework while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He also prepared for and successfully passed the PhD qualifier, and initiated his PhD research.

He has been effective at teaching a broad set of topics and lab skills at course levels from 2000 to 5000, and to ECE majors and non-majors alike. In the process, he learned and taught the following software packages: PSPICE, LabView, Eagle PCB Design, MultiSim, Matlab Simulink, ASPEN, SEL AcSELerator, ATP, and Doble Power Suite.

Zagros did a particularly outstanding job in EE5224, teaching 4 sections of a graduate-level lab that requires a great deal of preparation of lab software, hardware, and prelab guidance of the students. Based on his knowledge and demonstrated capabilities, he was chosen to participate in an international education and research exchange project at NTNU, in Trondheim, Norway from February through June of this year. The project is funded by the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education. Zagros shared the knowledge, best practices, and experience gained from teaching EE5224, assisted his hosts in designing and developing power system protection laboratory capabilities in support of graduate research projects, helped to advise and support two masters students in their projects, and contributed to research proposal writing. The expected outcome is to increase collaborative possibilities for research and exchange opportunities between Michigan Tech and NTNU. At the same time, he was developing his own PhD research proposal in the area of power system protection. He is now back at MTU continuing his progress toward PhD. Mr. Shahooei’s advisor is Dr. Bruce Mork.

xiaohui, wang_photo
Xiaohui Wang, PhD, 2014 Matt Wolfe Outstanding GRA

Xiaohui Wang received his degree PhD in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech in April 2014. He is honored as a truly exceptional graduate research assistant during his time at Michigan Tech.

Xiaohui began his PhD candidacy under the direction of his advisor Dr. Elena Semouchkina in Spring 2010, working on his dissertation entitled “Experimental and Computational Studies of Electromagnetic Cloaking at Microwaves”. Xiaohui’s research was featured in the Frontiers of Engineering Physics for his work on the development of novel metamaterials and invisibility cloaks. His outstanding work has demonstrated the feasibility of metamaterial cloaking devices via simulations and experiments on prototype cloaks at microwave frequencies. This cutting edge research is bringing distinction to Michigan Tech. In particular, the work on cloaking is currently featured on the NSF “Discoveries” website: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/index.jsp?pims_id=13381&org=NSF

These findings were published in two 2013 Letter papers with Dr. Wang as the first author, one in the IEEE Microwave and Wireless Component Letters (MWCL) and another in the Applied Physics Letters, have been featured in two “First Bell” ASSE’s newsletters under “Higher Education”: http://mailview.custombriefings.com/mailview.aspx?m=2013032701asee&r=4154459-d0d6http://mailview.custombriefings.com/mailview.aspx?m=2013020501asee&r=2865525-b08b

This work has also inspired a question on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” asking the contestant, ”What item are scientists at Michigan Technological University trying to build by capturing rays of light and routing them around objects?”.

Overall, Dr. Wang has authored and co-authored 5 published journal papers. His 5th paper published in the American Institute of Physics Advances (AIP Advances) in December 2013 develops a 3D spherical invisibility cloak, in addition to previously developed 2D cylindrical cloaks. The 6th paper, which he co-authored and submitted in summer 2014, is currently under review in the Journal of Applied Physics. He has also authored and co-authored 8 published refereed conference proceedings and two oral presentations at the IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation.

In recognition of the high quality of his work, his conference paper “Electromagnetic Cloaking by Using Multilayer Dielectric Coating” submitted to the 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation was selected as Honorable Mention at the Best Student Paper Competition. The award included a $1000 stipend to attend and present his work at the Symposium in Orlando, Florida in July 2013. He was also invited to serve as the Session Chair, which is an exceptional honor for a graduate student.

In addition to Dr. Wang’s academic and research success, he was an invaluable contributor to establishing the new “Microwave Characterization Lab” in the Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC), home to the ECE Department, where he has assembled equipment for full characterization of materials, metamaterials, and devices at frequencies up to 20 GHz and help to renovate the adjacent anechoic chamber, replacing the old microwave absorbers.

Xiaohui is currently an intern with Delphi in Kokomo, Indiana, and will begin his full-time position with the company in January 2015.

For more information please see Jonathan Bara Award for GTA and Matt Wolfe Award for Outstanding GRA.

 


Seminar: Instrumenting the Human Body

sep22Seminar presentation jointly sponsored by Michigan Technological University’s College of Engineering and the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering
Date: Monday, September 22, 2014; Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m.; Location: M&M U115
Title: Instrumenting the Human Body
Richard B. Brown, Ph.D., Dean of Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Abstract: Advances in semiconductor technology are enabling research into, and treatment of, many human diseases. Prof. Brown will present a highly‐integrated, low‐power, wireless, mixed-signal microprocessor that was designed for implantable biomedical applications, and braincomputer interfaces that enable researchers to monitor electrical firing of individual neurons, local field potentials, and chemical signaling in the brain.

Biography: Prof. Brown earned the degrees BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from Brigham Young University. After working in industry for six years, he returned to school at the University of Utah and received the degree PhD in EE in 1985, developing one of the first “smart sensors,” an array of liquid chemical sensors with integrated electronics. Upon graduation, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he developed their VLSI program and conducted research on circuits (high‐speed, low‐power, high‐temperature, and radiation hard), microprocessors (high‐performance, low‐power, and mixed‐signal), sensors (for ions, heavy metals, and neurotransmitters), and brain‐machine interfaces. At Michigan he held an Arthur F. Thurnau Endowed Professorship. In 2004, he was appointed Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Utah, where he has continued to do research on circuits, mixed-signal microcontrollers and neural interfaces. Prof. Brown has been a founder with his students of Mobius Microsystems (all‐silicon clock generators), i‐SENS (glucose sensors), Sensicore (water chemistry sensors), and e‐SENS (chemical sensors). He holds 17 patents, has authored more than 225 peer‐reviewed publications, and graduated 30 PhD students.

Richard B. Brown, Ph.D., Dean of Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City presented a seminar at Michigan  Title: Instrumenting the Human Body; Shown here 2nd from left with Michigan Tech faculty, Paul Bergstrom, ECE Chair Daniel Fuhrmann and Saeid Nooshabadi
Richard B. Brown, Ph.D., Dean of Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City presented a seminar at Michigan Title: Instrumenting the Human Body; Shown here 2nd from left with Michigan Tech faculty, Paul Bergstrom, ECE Chair Daniel Fuhrmann and Saeid Nooshabadi

Michigan Tech/ECE Receives Mi-Light Photonics Scholarship Award

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering - Photonics Concentration
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – Photonics Concentration

Mi-Light, the Michigan photonics industry cluster, announced the funding and award of $5,000 in scholarships to four in-state academic institutions. Baker College, Grand Valley State University, Michigan Technological University, and Northwestern Michigan College. Each college or university was allocated $1,250 to be awarded to students enrolled in photonics programs. For the complete press release see Manufacturing Engineering Magazine.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech will award one recipient the Mi-Light Photonics Scholarship in the amount of $1,250 during the 2014-2015 academic year. Eligible students must meet the basic requirements: Undergraduate student; Electrical Engineering major; currently or have previously completed course work in photonics; minimum GPA of 3.0; and demonstrated intent of continuing within the field. Students interested in applying for the scholarship must submit a cover letter detailing your background, experience, and interests in Photonics to Dr. Christopher Middlebrook at ctmiddle@mtu.edu. Deadline to apply is November 1, 2014.

See ECE Photonics more information regarding the ECE Department’s Photonics Concentration program.

About Mi-Light: Mi-Light is a non-profit organization serving Michigan’s photonics industry by bringing together professionals from companies, academia and organizations to mutually support and promote photonics-related business. For more on Mi-Light visit: www.mi-light.org.

MEDC Statement: Funds for this initiative were provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a Michigan Strategic Fund program designed to accelerate the growth and diversification of Michigan’s economy. The MEDC, a public-private partnership between the state and local communities, provides administrative support for the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The MEDC markets Michigan and provides the tools and environment to drive job creation and investment. For more information on the 21st Century Jobs Fund initiative, visit www.MichiganAdvantage.org.For more on MEDC visit:  MichiganAdvantage.org.